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Czech government survives no-confidence vote over energy prices

·2-min read
Czech Republic's President Zeman appoints Petr Fiala as new Prime Minister, in Lany

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government survived a no-confidence vote on Friday after a marathon 22-hour debate in parliament amid opposition claims of inaction against soaring inflation and energy prices.

The vote showed how Europe's energy crisis is fuelling political instability as soaring power prices add to inflation, already at levels unseen in three decades.

The centre-right, five-party coalition led by Prime Minister Petr Fiala has an eight-seat majority in the 200-seat lower chamber, easily denying two opposition parties the needed 101 majority required by in parliamentary votes.

Lawmakers gathered on Thursday and debated the motion throughout the night before a vote at midday on Friday.

"Prime Minister Fiala and his ministers are not able to run our country.... the energy crisis has completely got out of their hands," opposition leader Andrej Babis told lawmakers.

Former prime minister Babis, a billionaire who was defeated in an election last year, also accused the government of links to people being investigated for alleged corruption in a scandal that has forced the resignation of the head of the secret service.

A loss of confidence would have been an embarrassment for the Czech government, which is leading the European Union's rotating presidency as the bloc seeks to maintain unity for its support of Ukraine while finding a way to halt a surge in energy prices as a result of reduced Russian gas supplies.

Italy's coalition government, led by former central banker Mario Draghi, collapsed in July in a confidence vote related to a package aimed to react to rising cost of living.

The Czech government fell in a no-confidence vote in 2009 when it last held the EU presidency.

The opposition is critical of government initiatives to help households and businesses, including a plan announced this week to support energy-intensive firms with a program worth as much as 28 billion Czech crowns ($1.15 billion).

Fiala has said his government has set aside 177 billion crowns, or nearly 3% of gross domestic product, in total to help people cope with soaring prices.

($1 = 24.4230 Czech crowns)

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Jason Hovet and Mike Harrison)